Stream Cleaner Environmental Forum 2009
Gonzaga College High School: 6th Period Consensus Paper
6th Period Consensus Paper
In order to clean up the Chesapeake Bay and reduce pollution for years to come, several laws, restrictions, and policies must be passed by the government and local agnecies. These policies must approach all of the different problems that currently exist in the bay. We propose six things. First, we must lower nitrogen levels. We also propose that states implement state-wide clean up projects and fundraisers. The federal government must also do a better job of reducing overfishing, enforcing existing laws and they must update the Clean Water Act. Finally, stricter laws addressing carpooling and HOV lanes should be passed and a stronger emphasis must be placed on wetland protection to prevent erosion and sediment pollution.
First, we must address t
he problems caused by nitrogen pollution. In an attempt to lower nitrogen levels, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and the federal government signed an agreement in 1986 to reduce the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus entering the Bay by 40 percent by 2000. The pollution-reduction target was developed to improve and maintain the water quality of Chesapeake Bay and to ensure the productivity of the Bay's resources. But it was recently announced that the Chesapeake is nowhere close of reaching this goal. This is just one of the examples that show how the cleanup of the Bay is not happening on schedule and not doing enough when something does get done. Updating a new piece of legislation pertaining to the Bay and overall water quality in the United States will help us set new, realistic goals that can be met but still be challenging. One of the downfalls of the Bay Program is its lack of funding. This new legislation could provide an annual budget for Bay cleanup programs in order to get the proper actions moving. It creates jobs in a struggling economy and helps other aspects of the economy flourish as well. The program benefits the watermen, recreation and tourism industries, the ecosystem, the Bay Program, and the homeowners the most. It creates a healthy, aesthetically pleasing body of water that everyone can enjoy. Although farmers and developers may be subjected to new regulations, it is all in the best interest of the Bay, and they can be compensated for their actions in the effort to help clean up. It helps refresh and update the current legislation with the modern times and better assess the Bay cleanup from a new perspective.
In addition, there should be state wide clean-up programs put into effect to help save the Chesapeake Bay. A couple of ways in which the bay could be cleaned up would be to install or improve better water treatment plants, make a larger ban on detergents and phosphorous, and also set up volunteer groups that would like to help restore the bay. Each one of these proposals are pretty broad programs that when all are put into effect would reach a huge positive outcome. Sewage treatment plants should be renovated because at these are the last places where the water is cleaned before entering into the bay. It would be very effective if the water plants were improved because the water would be able to be cleaned through more rigorous processes and flow into the Chesapeake Bay at a much better condition. Volunteer groups would also be another step in the right direction to further cleaning up the bay. The people that volunteer willingly to help clean the bay will put a lot of effort into cleanup projects because they actually want a positive outcome. There could also be some annual fundraisers, mirrored of the Relay for Life and Walk for Life used for abortion, that would involve the whole community and help educate people more on the problem that is affecting us now with the Chesapeake Bay. A ban or reduction on detergents and phosphorus that goes into our waterways will greatly help the bay. All of those detergents greatly decrease the ability for life to sustain itself in the water which eventually will lead to whole underwater communities dying out. A ban or law to not allow people to drain hazardous liquids down drains or throw them away with other trash could help save the bay. Most of the phosphorus and detergents come from storm water runoff from agricultural fields, so installation of rain gardens and other water management programs can help absorb the phosphorus before it enters the bay.
Third, over fishing is another problem that we have in the Chesapeake Bay, and if not addressed soon or efficiently many populations will be affected negatively. Over fished populations are at huge risks of becoming extinct because it is hard for species to reproduce and live in such a polluted environment like the Chesapeake Bay. There should be more laws and bans put on fishing, like the one on Blue Crabs in Maryland, so that populations can remain constant and far away from harmfully low numbers. There was one instant in the Chesapeake Bay where over fishing and toxins in the water teamed up to eventually decrease the number of oysters and increase the “death zone” in the bay. The lack of fish which help filter the water allowed the toxins to have a stronger affect in the water which led to algae and other species decline.
If the governments were to enforce the laws about pollution and also ask the Environmental Protection Agency to help regulate the amount of pollution that goes into the water, then the quality of animal life would be much better. The issues that the protection agencies face with enforcement are due to the fact that there is too great of an amount of things that need to be regulated. This can be overcome by using a random checking system. With this system, random checks will be conducted by the enforcement agencies. Not all of the places will be checked, but the will always be the possibility of a place being checked at any time. To prevent people from taking the risk and breaking the law, we can make the penalty for an offense extremely high, such as a very large fine or jail time. Regulations can be put into place to address runoff by requiring runoff prevention systems for all new development. Things like requiring a buffer zone near streams. To regulate the pesticides, the government can issue farmers cards that must be scanned to purchase pesticides. The farmer can buy a certain amount of pesticides, based on the amount of land he farms. Once the credits are used up, no more pesticides can be purchased. This limits the amount of pesticides used. Promoting voluntary use by the public is important, and through commercials and ads we can raise awareness.
In addition to do a better job enforcing current laws, it would be ideal for the local government to reinstate a revised Clean Water Act for the Chesapeake Bay call the Healthy Water Act. One of the main reasons why the Clean Water Act was not fulfilled is due to poor funding. In the Healthy Water Act, the local government would give 5 billion dollars to the Bay Program and developers. The Bay Program can now hire whoever is needed to help enforce the laws to keep the bay clean. Also the developers can issue new environmental friendly appliances into society. The appliances can prevent the runoff of point and non-point pollution, better maintain sewage systems, etc. Like the Clean Water Act, the Healthy Water Act will be demand a decrease in pollution by 40% by 2030. Productivity is needed in order for the Chesapeake Bay to be restored.
Carpooling is a viable solution to much of the pollution produced by cars, which is a serious problem in the Chesapeake watershed, which includes the Washington D.C. metropolitan area, the Baltimore metropolitan area, and several metropolitan areas in Pennsylvania, which proves that cars have a large impact on the health of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. There are a few possible ways of approaching this solution. First, we can focus on reducing the number of cars on the road during rush hour. We could do this by turning HOV lanes from cars with 2 people to cars with 3 or even four occupants between 6-9 am and 4-7 pm. 66 in Virginia is already all HOV during these hours, which roads such as 395, 270, and 495 should follow. Also, we could make more lanes on each of the roads HOV. Currently, on 270 only one lane is HOV during rush hour. We should increase this number, perhaps even until all of the lanes are HOV. Other highways should follow this model, and they should make more of their lanes HOV, which will increase traffic in the other two lanes and motivate more drivers to carpool. In conclusion, there are three things the state should do to encourage carpooling: making carpooling by large numbers mandatory in HOV lanes during certain times of the day, making more lanes on the highway HOV, and making certain highways HOV only during certain hours of the day, if not all hours of the day.
Finally, wetlands serve many purposes in a watershed area; they store and filter water, reduce damage done by floods and erosion, increase an ecosystems biodiversity, enrich soil nutrients, trap sediment and pollution, serve as a resting place for migrating birds, and offers sentimental and recreational value to a community. Due to all of these positive outcomes, we propose a stronger emphasis on wetland protection and restoration in the Chesapeake area. This program would work by having volunteer services restore wetlands under supervision of Plant and Wildlife officials. If one lives near a wetland, further incentives (tax deductions) could encourage homeowners to plant buffer plants of their own around wetlands. The success of the wetlands and Chesapeake community will correlate with the success of the environment, ensuring greater biodiversity and less pollution.
Bay Program signatories agreed to pursue a net gain of 25,000 acres of tidal and non-tidal wetlands in the Bay watershed by 2010. These wetland acres would be gained through voluntary projects. The Bay program reached its halfway point in 2007 and is making great strides to accomplishing its goals. With the help of our proposal we could redouble efforts and greatly expand our goals without losing momentum.
In conclusion, we could make dramatic improvements to the Chesapeake Bay by implementing the plans proposed by these six points.
The Chesapeake Bay has become a national treasure with its Stunning sunsets, plentiful sea life, and countless recreational opportunities. Few people would be content to lose the bay, but most fail to realize how dire the situation is. In order to save the Chesapeake Bay and its surrounding watershed, several changes need to be made in the way residents and businesses live and conduct business. Although each stakeholder has different priorities and ideas, the best solutions are those that are acceptable to everyone. Fish and shellfish populations in the bay have been shrinking rapidly, and this decline of approximately sixteen percent in the shellfish population affects the livelihood of numerous bay fishermen.
One proposition that would protect both the fisherman and his catch is to place a temporary moratorium on fishing that would remain in place until fish populations had recovered to safe, plentiful levels. The Clean Water Act also needs to be strengthened to regulate pollution from non-point sources including careful measurements of fertilizers and pesticides which kill fish with excess nitrogen and chemicals that are dangerous to humans as well as sea life.
Farmers are a group that accumulates a huge proportion of blame for Water pollution, whether it is deserved or not. However, many farmers could reap economic rewards from upgrading their facilities to become more eco-friendly. Substantial government subsidies already exist and will cover up to three-quarters of the cost of instituting best management practicesólike fencing streams, reducing the amount of fertilizers and pesticides used, and creating large buffer zones so farmers need to be made aware of these opportunities. Therefore, an increased advertising budget in the US Department of Agriculture is required to target farmers, both small and large, who would benefit themselves and the environment from upgrading. Farmers and the environment would also benefit from a government-funded program that would teach farmers how to calculate the optimum levels of fertilizer and pesticide to apply, since more is not always better in farming. This would reduce fertilizer costs and nitrogen runoff into waterways. Natural gas is a staple resource in todayís society, especially as a heating fuel. However, dangerous chemicals, including carcinogens whose names the companies refuse to make public, are used in its extraction, some of which make their way into the watershed. State and federal laws must regulate these chemicals. However, the natural gas companies provide a key raw material for the American economy, so funding must be made available for research in new extraction techniques. New methods have been created, but they are not yet quick or efficient enough to gain widespread use and acceptance. More funding is required to make these new techniques efficient so that natural gas companies stop using these carcinogens in extraction, which will reduce pollution.
Although foresting has gone on for centuries, modern-day forestry workers have a great deal of responsibility to protect the forests they harvest. Clear cutting forests severely damages the environment because they eliminate the buffer zones that reduce large amounts of runoff sediment and nutrients that would otherwise enter the waterways and pollute the bay. Legislation needs to be produced that would hold loggers to a program that consists of selective cutting and replanting as many trees as they cut. This program would provide forests for tomorrow ís loggers and reduce pollution concurrently.
Small landowners also play a large role in water pollution.Massive amounts of fertilizers and pesticides are used on yards and flowerbeds. These sources of pollution need to be monitored more carefully and the landowners and gardeners need to be informed that more fertilizer is not always better for their land and the watershed in general. Much of the fertilizer that is applied is extra, so the plants cannot utilize it and the nitrogen ends up in the waterways where its effects are extremely harmful to the bay ecosystem.
Today's car manufacturers are held to very high standards. Not only are they forced to make safe, attractive vehicles that the consumers will buy, but, today, they also are responsible for meeting government-set gas mileage standards. However, the research required for creating both hybrid vehicles and those that use less gasoline is very expensive, and there is not enough funding for this research. The government needs to make much more funding available for auto research and development, or else the American car companies will go bankrupt and thousands will lose their jobs. The government also cannot require the automakers to refrain from manufacturing gasoline-powered vehicles, or the automakers and consumers will suffer from more expensive vehicles.
Coal companies have several ways to combat pollution from old, unused mines. These include sealing old mines to prevent acid from leeching into the watershed and replanting strip mines to minimize runoff and eventually restore the plant and animal life in the area. However, coal companies do not have any desire to change from their old, dirty coal-burning technology quickly. They would much rather convert slowly, one plant every few years--so that they prevent facing all of the extreme expense at one time. The coal companies are also willing to invest in technologies to trap carbon underground to help secure carbonís place as a vital fuel, but, again, this would be funded gradually over a long period of time so that research would not cause a deep drop in the companies' profits. Nuclear power companies would to build secondary and tertiary Reactors that would have the capacity to reuse nuclear waste. However, the companies would like a tax break to help cover their costs. Nuclear power companies also realize the vital importance that safety plays in today's society. In return for building new, more advanced reactors, the nuclear companies would like the government to remove restrictions on the transportation of nuclear waste that would, in turn, reduce the costs of moving the waste to secondary and tertiary reactors.
In order to protect the Chesapeake Bay watershed and its forests and agriculture, land developers need to place their developments on marginal landóthat which cannot sustain agriculture or productive forests because its soil quality is poor or it is too steep. Developers can also save productive land by building tall buildings instead of their wide counterparts. The government should pass a law stipulating that cities must begin to build up instead of out. Construction fencing also needs to be used to help prevent runoff from construction sites. If runoff happens, then sediment ponds can be put into place to catch the polluted, sediment filled water. Buffer zones will also play a key role in reducing pollution in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
Just as there are many problems affecting the Chesapeake Bay watershed, there are just as many solutions to these problems. When everyone in the watershed realizes that they play a key role in sustaining the watershed and does their part, the efforts will combine and the health of the watershed will slowly improve.
Our goal is to reduce pollution loads, particularly nutrient and sediment, entering our streams of the Susquehanna Watershed and eventually the Chesapeake Bay. We essentially want to help the Bay by soaking up pollution before it hits our own waterways. By concentrating on the health of our own rivers, we indirectly help the Bay. We need to get the word out and get the community involved.
Our approach will begin with education (soft strategy), hoping to promote BMP’s throughout PA using. Initially we would come up with 5 to 10 ways to “slow down” run-off and another 5 to 10 ways to “soak up” the excess nutrients and sediments. Impervious surfaces found on roads and pavements, decrease infiltration and can cause flooding issues. Our plan includes planting as much streamline with trees and plants to act as a buffer for or trout rich streams. Riparian forest buffers are great for around streams and rivers to help filter nutrients, sediments, and other pollutants from runoff, as well as remove nutrients from groundwater. We can then promote these ideas further, expanding into other schools thus getting them to implement the ‘Slow it Down, Soak it Up” green model in their own watersheds. To promote and expand our cause, we could hold informational fairs comprised of students, teachers and community volunteers, who will show the participants how to test water, what they should look for, and how to implement some BMP’s on their own.
We would also work with local municipalities to place codes on all new development (hard strategy) in order to minimize impervious surfaces and maximize buffer zones (35 feet wide along waterways). With more restrictions on run-off and protection for buffer zones during new development, the shock of expansion and pollution impact on local waterways can somewhat be absorbed. In order to ensure that a lesser amount of fertilizer is used on the whole, a small tax will be placed on it. However, for farmers using BMP’s, no fertilizer tax is required. One of the biggest solutions is to ban all farm animals using the stream as a water source or a cleaning area. Forested stream buffers would also keep cows out of the streams. Other ideas we found were to require the use of pervious (allows for infiltration) surfaces on new development or limited use of impervious ones, replacement of existing impervious surfaces within a time frame, provide tax breaks for pervious material use, or higher taxes for use of impervious materials. Tax breaks for homeowners or government subsidies for farmers who protect riparian zones on their property would also be conservation incentives.
In order to determine if our strategy is working, long term observations may be needed. Ideally, we could measure nutrient and sediment loads at the mouth of the Susquehanna before they entered the Bay. Direct changes in the Bay would be noticed during water quality testing in the Bay or the response from Bay grasses and crab populations.
The cost of our plan would be minimal initially as we would promote our strategy to schools and surrounding communities via the web. We must strive to get farmers and homeowners on board and convince them to go above what they're required. If they don’t have time to plant buffers or decrease impervious surfaces, perhaps we could get volunteer groups to plant them. Grants and fundraising projects would support any model projects (such as tree plantings) we initiate within our own community. If we don’t get involved and help now, we may eventually pay for the cost to repair damage to the environment with increased taxes. Let’s all jump in and get our feet wet in watershed conservation!
Buffers (found as a link on the eforum “phone” page)
Pervious Pavement (found as a link on the eforum “phone” page)
Erosion and Sediment Control Law (found as a link on the eforum “phone” page)
PA Nutrient Trade Policy (http://bayjournal.com/article.cfm?article=2998)
Chesapeake Bay FAQ (http://www.chesapeakebay.net/bayfaq.aspx?menuitem=14589#care
Susquehanna River FAQ (http://www.wtopnews.com/?nid=445&sid=608520
Clean-up the Bay (http://bayjournal.com/article.cfm?article=3015)
Government Interaction (http://bayjournal.com/article.cfm?article=3016)
Volunteer Strategies – (http://bayjournal.com/article.cfm?article=3017)
The ecosystem of our local Bay is suffering
greatly, due to the increased amounts of water pollution. Too many
sediments and fertilizers in the water have made life less
sustainable for the creatures in the ecosystem of the Chesapeake